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Rita Streich discusses her upcoming recital and Studs plays selections ; part 1

BROADCAST: Feb. 17, 1962 | DURATION: 00:23:59


Studs Terkel interviews Rita Streich about her recital coming up. He also plays selections from her work for viewers to listen to. She also talks about music during World War II. This interview is conducted in three parts.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel "What with her bright eyes, small stature, and a way of tilting her head when she sings, Rita Streich is not unlike a bird Papageno might try to snare. And with a command of styles including the coloratura she can sing, she can sing like both the Emperor's nightingales", and thus Claudia Cassidy began her most enthusiastic review of Rita Streich's concert, which she described as one of the treasures of several seasons. Miss Streich is our guest this morning as she was once upon a time and assume, Miss Streich, this is a resto- this a recital now, this is a recital that you are offering. You have chosen certain pieces, certain lieder, certain other works. We open - you open with a Mozart.

Rita Streich Yes, I--

Studs Terkel So you have chosen that, "Ridente la calma."

Rita Streich "Ridente la calma."

Studs Terkel From the Italian.

Rita Streich "Nell'alma si desti, ne resti pui segno di sdegno e timor." I'm completely in peace and happy and in a wonderful mood.

Studs Terkel "Ridente la calma", a most peaceful song of Mozart. Why would you open a recital, say, with this piece?

Rita Streich Oh, at first I always like to to start a recital with Mozart, and I think this "Ridente la calma" gives with this a certain reservation, and good beginning because you have to to build up program and to come nearer and nearer to the audience. And this, I think, is just a good start for the Mozart group. He has written this and the little lovely other song in Italian. And these two, "Ridente la calma" and "Dans un bois solitaire", I would like to prefer when I start with Mozart. I I mostly like to start with this "Ridente la calma". And, you know, I - you cannot just embrace the audience from the first moment, and the concentration which all all recital gives to an artist and also from a good audience. The audience has also a certain concentration. So I think this is the first meeting of two sides, you know, the artist--

Studs Terkel Meeting of two sides, the artist and the audience. You use the word reservation. It was a growing, it is a process of a growing.

Rita Streich Yes. Yes. One song I I think I sing most brilliant, I would not put in the first--

Studs Terkel You would not--

Rita Streich First moment.

Studs Terkel This would be like embracing the audience immediately.

Rita Streich Yeah. No, I I think I would really always start, and as Mozart is so beautiful and so difficult to sing him--

Studs Terkel You used the phrase before we went on the air: what is naturlich. The funny [what? one?], the the law of nature itself, in a way?

Rita Streich Oh, the law of nature.

Studs Terkel The building.

Rita Streich Yes, absolutely.

Studs Terkel For an artist.

Rita Streich That you are change in the in the evening, from the first meeting, then you you get nearer and warmer and your your program was all these different groups of songs, give them them more shadow, more of yourself, the different sides you can offer. You cannot do this in the first moment you have to to to really to work on the colorful program and, therefore, always I think that is a pity if an audience of one of the audience can only stay the first half.

Studs Terkel I will ask you about that as we go along, the matter of of the recital being an organic whole. How hearing half a recital is is--

Rita Streich Oh, oh it's something--

Studs Terkel It's unfair to the listener, as well as to the artist.

Rita Streich Oh, oh, absolutely, something would hurt [laughter].

Studs Terkel We'll come back to this in a moment, and also the matter of the audience itself giving, we'll ask about your experiences in one of the Asian countries. But we start with Mozart's "Ridente la calma." Now you continue with the Mozart sequence in the beginning--

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel Aside from being a Mozart coloratura. The second you mentioned the French--

Rita Streich "Dans un bois solitaire", which is a little bit more - already gives more color, and this I would put in the second.

Studs Terkel This is the second. Now here's a little more, as you say, a little less of the calm.

Rita Streich No.

Studs Terkel And the peaceful.

Rita Streich It has a more, it is already a little, you know, a little atmosphere you found L'Amour sleeping in the wood, and while you see him how beautiful he is, you wake him and then you are have, you know, you get the shot of and then you have to love [pause in recording].

Studs Terkel And so from the calmness of the Italian one to the beginning, the awakening, the arrow shooting into the heart of L'Amour and so love. Here we have a continuing now, more and more life, begin this is your second Mozart piece.

Rita Streich Yeah. And I would then, you know, it's very very hard from all these beautiful Mozart songs to to choose four or five. But then I would of course take in German language, and I would like to go to the lighter side, to the little 'spinnerin', "Die kleine Spinnerin", which is a nice little song and this I would put upon a third number.

Studs Terkel Now, this is another facet, now. This has a little gaiety to it now.

Rita Streich Yes, it is a little clever girl who says, oh, I don't want to to come with you. I am very happy with my work here, and I know how the men are, you know [laughter].

Studs Terkel How does the lyric go in

Rita Streich German? Do you remember the the opening? "Die Kleine Spinnerin"? "'Was spinnst du', fragte Nachtbars Fritz, als er uns jungst besuchte.'Dein Radchen lauft ja wie der Blitz, sag an, wozu dies fructe; komme lieber her in unser Spiel!'" And she says, oh, Herr Fritz, this does, I don't exactly know, but I stay with my work [laughter]. [pause in recording.]

Studs Terkel And thus with this gay song, "Little Spinner Weave", that's another facet of Mozart, you might say, but also the artist Rita Streich. This is bit by bit now, you're coming closer and closer to the audience, the audience to you. And now there's a fourth, there's a fourth Mozart song you do in the recital.

Rita Streich Yes, and for this I would like to to take the zauberer, you know, the zauberer, you say, the magi, magi--

Studs Terkel The magician.

Rita Streich Magician. And she tells to the other girls, oh, oh please don't stay with him, he is a zauberer. And now she tells how she felt with him because he was so hypnose--

Studs Terkel Hypnotic.

Rita Streich Hypnotic for her, that he - everything that he has said and when when he spoke she said, yes and no, and completely and then he took her in the green and every sudden the mother came, and she is so glad the mother came [laughter], you know. But the one one lady from the audience told me that the little daughter at home, she likes very much this song, and one day she asked the lit- she's, she was 10 years old, and she asked her mother, Tell me what would be happen, if the mother wouldn't have come? [laughter] Isn't that a nice question?

Studs Terkel That's the question. The eternal question. Here then--

Rita Streich [laughter] Isn't that a nice question? So she she heard it on the record and she was just very curious what would have be happened if the mother wouldn't come.

Studs Terkel Of course, the element of suspense is here, that the child understands too well--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Studs Terkel Also the the loss of will. So we come to the fourth part now.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel We get into the drama. The drama is here.

Rita Streich Yes, because we have - already you have two different colors because the girl is very right to say in the one hand she would like to go with zauberer. [laughter] She chose to be happy that the mother came, so--

Studs Terkel It's both. He's a fascinating figure. Dangerous.

Rita Streich How dangerous and how lovely. Yes.

Studs Terkel Der zauberer [pause in recording]. And thus the concert has opened a sequence, the beginning, the first part, Mozart. I know you could do a whole program of Mozart.

Rita Streich Oh, yes, I would like to go on all these beautiful Mozart songs. And I just - And also I tell you something. If you come again to a to an audience, of course, every year you grow also in your feeling and in your [German], you say.

Studs Terkel In yo- in your outlook.

Rita Streich Yeah, I mean the [German] of the of the song. And every year you have to to--

Studs Terkel Your understanding of the song.

Rita Streich Understanding of the song. You have to develop and and this is a wonderful thing in working for for a lieder recital, because really I mean, as for instance, the voice grows in the feeling and the the the life gives you more experience in every aspect. And so this is the thing you'll never get the routine in this thing, you never have to to make it. You never should make it exactly as you have done, of course. And this is the wonderful--

Studs Terkel Because you are different--

Rita Streich Yes--

Studs Terkel You are different the following year.

Rita Streich And therefore you always put your more deepness in this and this is a wonderful work to sing lieder, and always when I when I hear my records and I think, oh yes, I do it better now, I do it better now [laughter]. And this is something wonderful in in living for for the songs.

Studs Terkel Well, it's the growing of the artist.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel Now before we, you begin the second part.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel Your Schubert.

Rita Streich Group of--

Studs Terkel Your your Schubert side, your Schubert group. There's something you had said in the beginning about a recital, a recital of an artist being a whole. Sometimes we read of a critic who due to press of circumstances, I saw the one half of the recital of the artist, then they had to catch another artist the second half.

Rita Streich Oh! This is really, I think, this is really a big, big problem. And I think it's really unfair, to both of both sides also, to the critic who has to write about an evening, about an artist. He probably is in already in a in a state of looking to the clock to be in time for the other half. So inside it's a it it has to be a restless feeling, and it cannot be completely fair to one or the other artist. And it's hard for him himself to work on. And as a program, I mean I can only speak for my side is, as I said before, I think what really lives and has a growing and has itself in this two hours or one and a half hour, it has to be the second half just more as in the first half in many many thinking.

Studs Terkel Many ways. And feeling.

Rita Streich Yes, many ways and feelings, as you come together with the with the audience more and more. And it is a thing of contact. You know, you give away the best you have, but you receive wonderful things, also, from the audience. The the understanding and the concentration and the being with in the moment of the creation of the song. So this builds up fantastic battles for an artist, and as you feel they like to have all all your best, you really, you really are growing. And because, fortunately, we are not machines. And then to cut in a half an artist, I I would prefer that he would not come or he stays the whole program.

Studs Terkel We continue now with your second. Why do you choose Schubert? You chose now a group of Schubert songs following Mozart, Schubert now.

Rita Streich Yes. Schubert is one also such a wonderful composer for lieder, and also here as an artist you have a hard time to choose which songs you you you put together because they are so beautiful, so so wonderful. In Schubert hope I would just like to start with "Das lied im grunen."

Studs Terkel "Das lied im grunen." And I'm thinking now, you opened with "Ridente la calma", the the Mozart Italian song that dealt with a calmness and a peace.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel And now we go a step further, a recurring theme.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel It's a variation, a step further, the same theme of the calm and the peacefulness.

Rita Streich Yes. Yes.

Studs Terkel From Schubert's part.

Rita Streich Yes, just complimentary to the nature. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel If we may continue now with the recital and this matter of growing, the build. The second Schubert piece you choose is the Goethe lyrics, "Lied der Mignon", why this one?

Rita Streich [German], This is a more - you know, only who knows what longing is knows in what state I am. And it's really it's it's a it's just [German]. The song, the whole song is longing to someone who is very very far away and it's completely of a color of a song.

Studs Terkel It's more of a darker, sadder color. The element of longing, longing yeah.

Rita Streich Of longing, yes, someone you love most. And he's not here. [German] "One who has yearned for beloved will know how much I suffer."

Studs Terkel And so there's an exploration of different moods.

Rita Streich Mhm.

Studs Terkel There was the peacefulness, earlier, and now we come to the matter of yearning. And again you build, here, too, the element of growth and build, variations on the Mozart group earlier. Of course, next you've chosen "Seligkeit."

Rita Streich "Seligkeit."

Studs Terkel Something wholly different.

Rita Streich Yes, a lovel- lovely three verses of a waltz, kind of waltz, you know. How much I would like to be, [German]. This is just a little song which is in that [German].

Studs Terkel "Seligkeit" itself is a synonym for it, in English would be more than joy. Seligkeit is--

Rita Streich Numberless joys.

Studs Terkel Bliss! Bliss.

Rita Streich Bliss.

Studs Terkel They call it, bliss, heavenly joy, in a way.

Rita Streich Yes, bliss.

Studs Terkel This is again [unintelligible] contrast.

Rita Streich There's a wish to be ever to rejoice.

Studs Terkel So here again--

Rita Streich There I would like to be--

Studs Terkel The element of contrast, at the same time, building, growing.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel "Seligkeit." [pause in recording] So we hear "Seligkeit" now. And before we come to the fourth Schubert piece, a major piece, a longer one, that will end the first half to, "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen", and the first half of your, this is the ideal recital, the recital you're planning, see.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel Before we come to that one. The element of another, another flavor here, another flavor, see?

Rita Streich You mean "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen"?

Studs Terkel Yes.

Rita Streich Yes. This is with obligat clarinet and it's a it's a three-part piece, you know? The first part which which wiederholte - how you say - comes again, then a sad part, and then the happy, last part: how wonderful it is that the spring is coming again.

Studs Terkel This is rather interesting. See again, this element of build, how you choose this piece this last, this fourth Schubert piece to end the first half of the recital.

Rita Streich Oh, yes. It's a special piece. First, because it's wonderful to sing it. It's it's with clarinet, and the voice and the clarinet fits wonderful together in how it is composed. It's just a wonderful and big piece, so you have something really for the end of the half. It's it's gracious and it has a certain, how you say, more than an aria. More than a simple song like an aria, you know. And therefore, it's--

Studs Terkel It has the drama of an aria.

Rita Streich When you find a good clarinetist, musically it's wonderful. And the words are beautiful too.

Studs Terkel And something else, too. The words are beautiful. The idea of the song, aside from the musical drama involved and the lead-in to the brilliance of the second half--

Rita Streich Mhm.

Studs Terkel The element itself, the shepherd on the cliff. There's the loneliness, there's the yearning--

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel There's the grief. At the same time, he says spring will come, spring and I will [unintelligible] ready for roving.

Rita Streich So--

Studs Terkel That spring will come, as though life itself, the renewal of life itself.

Rita Streich Yes, yes, yes. The happy part, that always the spring will come. Also, the side of of gladness after a time of hard sufferings.

Studs Terkel Of grief.

Rita Streich And so, the happy ending is just the beautiful, beautiful--

Studs Terkel You want to try the last phrase, the last phrase in German of this?

Rita Streich Oh yeah. "Der Fruhling will kommen, der Fruhling meine Freud, nun mach' ich mich fertig, Zum Wandern bereit. Je weiter meine Stimme dringt, Je heller sie mir widerkingt. Der Fruhling will kommen, der Fruhling meine Freud."

Studs Terkel Your listening to the shepherd on the cliff, "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen", that ends your first half of your recital, about to beautiful voices the clarinet and yours. The clarinet--

Rita Streich Oh, especially this clarinet. You know, this is Professor Heinrich Gotze, one of the best clarinetists we have. Oh, I would love to sing this in my next Chicago recital because this piece really I love to sing, and as I found the Chicago audience for recitals so nice and warm and so wonderful. Really I would like to offer this piece for the next time, for the ending of the first half.

Studs Terkel You mentioned something before of the clarinet as though a human voice, and then the clarinet's voice.

Rita Streich Oh, oh, the clarinet, especially how Professor Gotze plays. I always like to, you know, to to to to have the same eagerness in in preparing the tune. How wonderful this instrument sounds. Also in clearness and in warmth together. So it's really as [German] for the voice, we say [German] it's something voice likes to--

Studs Terkel Leading, a prologue, a--

Rita Streich Likes to to follow this--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Rita Streich This.

Studs Terkel Prologue. The leading to it.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel And yet they work together, too, so well.

Rita Streich Oh, it's a wonderful composed pieces.

Studs Terkel This matter of accompanying the obligat, the matter of the accompanist.

Rita Streich It's important--

Studs Terkel For the recitalist. You've worked with two of the best, Erich Werba and Paul Ulanowsky.

Rita Streich Yes, I'm very very happy to have had Paul Ulanowsky for my first tours here in America and also work with Erich Werba. I did many records. I took him also with me to Japan. And the importance of of the pianist for a singer is much more than I could describe in a few words because the vorspiel, when he starts - Also, if you have rehearsed enough, but the thing is that just the moment of the [German] is so important he prepares the whole--

Studs Terkel The vorspiel, the leading in, playing in front of--

Rita Streich The vorspiel, the leading in. And how it is this, how this is played. This gives important difference and with a good pianist you really, if you are a sensitive singer, then you you are you you you really can sing better, if the pianist is good. You know, if he doesn't disturb your your feeling, if he just carries or build up your--

Studs Terkel What you yourself are offering--

Rita Streich Yeah, [unintelligible] the voice.

Studs Terkel See, the matter of empathy, perhaps, the word empathy, this understanding or rapport.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel It works in so many ways now. And we'll call this our intermission conversation. Now, see--

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel The empathy that connects the accompanist and the artist, and then as the artist and the audience.

Rita Streich Oh, yeah.

Studs Terkel The matter of audience. You said something about performing, offering a recital in Japan.

Rita Streich Oh, yes. I I really - I am faced about this this audience in Japan and also they, of course, had all these records of mine. Theirs - it was a big waiting for my first tour. I was five weeks there, and only in Tokyo I had five big recitals, which really has audience of 3000 people. Then I went to a whole country, but the audience I must say it's [not English?], because they are really they are so concentrated. You feel what a vacuum it is, you know. How they, sometimes with closed eyes, they they wait that you give your best, and it's really it pulls out everything you have. And they are also, they are building their warmth. They they do - is that?

Studs Terkel They have the reservation in the beginning to--

Rita Streich In the beginning - they are really very critical. They wait and then it has a natural building. They also - if you if you know that they love an artist very very much from their records, but at the first you feel the first minutes, the first lieder how they really stay in the moment of living. Also, if they they like, they love this singer, but they wait. Now, what he's giving today, what is what is really going on. And then it's wonderful how this builds up. And then after the recital, it's not exaggerated that I have to have some time an hour, an hour and a half to write autograms[sic] and to write all my records to put my name on the records, and how concentrated [all?] they are in this kind of, you know, after the program they just stand and write, and it was so nice, if they tried to speak some German words to me.

Studs Terkel I hear to this is naturlich in the good sense.

Rita Streich Oh, yeah.

Studs Terkel The build, the reservation, the concentration, not the outward show, not the quick embrace as you said in the beginning--

Rita Streich Oh, no. I think it's--

Studs Terkel But this is what you're talking about in your recital, this growth.

Rita Streich Yes.

Studs Terkel And at the very end there is a--

Rita Streich And this is, I think this is a love--

Studs Terkel Natural enthusiasm.

Rita Streich This is a love which stays, you know, is it is a natural being. I think if you really have a concentrate feeling which is growing, it also stays longer then you just in the first moment embrace, and then you already look for another one [laughter]. It's just something very naturlich. And I think [unintelligible] in Chicago I I was very happy to sing here. The audience was very very warm.

Studs Terkel Rita Streich. This is the end of the first half of your recital now, we shall take a break before we begin the second half of the recital.

Rita Streich Oh yes, we do.